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BRAVADOS, THE (director: Henry King; screenwriters: Philip Yordan/from the book by Frank O’Rourke; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: William Mace; music: Lionel Newman; cast: Gregory Peck (Jim Douglas), Joan Collins (Josefa Velarde), Stephen Boyd (Bill Zachary), Albert Salmi (Ed Taylor), Henry Silva (Lujan), Kathleen Gallant (Emma Steinmetz), Lee Van Cleef (Alfonso Parral), Joe “Curly” DeRita (Hangman, Mr. Simms), Herbert Rudley (Sheriff Elroy Sanchez), Ken Scott (Primo), Andrew Duggan (Padre), George Voskovec (Gus), Barry Coe (Tom), Alicia del Lago (Angela Lujan); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herbert B. Swope, Jr.; 20th Century Fox; 1958)
“Stumbles when it catches a bad case of religion.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A brooding revenge Western that once again teams up Gregory Peck with director Henry King. They nine years ago did the stunning Twelve O’Clock High and eight years ago did the brilliant The Gunfighter. King also made the less successful The Snows of Kilimanjaro in 1952 with Peck. This one has all the earmarks of another great one, but it stumbles when it catches a bad case of religion. It’s based on the novel by Frank O’Rourke and the script from Philip Yordan.

Stranger Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) rides into Rio Arriba to watch the hanging of four outlaws–the half-breed Alfonso Parral (Lee Van Cleef), the Indian Lujan (Henry Silva), the white man Ed Taylor (Albert Salmi) and the white man Bill Zachary (Stephen Boyd) — convicted of killing a bank teller in a holdup. Jim believes these are the same men who stole money from his ranch and raped and killed his wife, leaving him widowed with his three-year-old daughter. In town Jim meets his old flame from New Orleans Josefa Velarde (Joan Collins), who turned him down when he asked for her hand in marriage and who hasn’t seen him for five years even though he lives only a hundred miles away in Winthrop. Josefa learns from the laconic Jim that he loved his wife very much and no longer is a church goer. On the eve of the hanging, Josefa convinces the reluctant hunter, chasing the outlaws for six months, to escort her to church. While the town is in church, the visiting hangman from nearby Silver City, Mr. Simms (Joe DeRita, who was the least funny Curly in the Three Stooges), is an accomplice to the outlaws (he took the place of the real hangman, whom he killed on the trail) and sticks a knife in the sheriff’s (Herbert Rudley) back but gets killed before the sheriff is overcome by the prisoners and the key is taken from him. They take Emma Steinmetz (Kathleen Gallant) hostage, who is the pretty single daughter of the town’s wealthy merchant (George Voskovec). A posse is formed with the deputy Primo (Ken Scott) in charge, but they have no luck trailing the escapees until Jim joins them. As they head for the Mexican border Jim picks them off one by one, starting with Parral. He begs for his life before killed, swearing he doesn’t know Jim’s wife as her photo in a watch is shown. Jim then captures crackshot Taylor and hangs him from a tree. Jim will come upon the murdered John Butler (Gene Evans), his prospector nearest neighbor who described to him the four men who rode past his shack that fatal day as being the same as the men set to be hanged, and inside his shack he will find an hysterical Emma who was raped and beaten by Zachary. Jim crosses alone the international border into Mexico and guns down Zachary in a cantina and chases the Indian to his home, where he lives with his wife and child. When wifey conks Jim over the head, the Indian while holding a gun to Jim finally convinces him that the four, though guilty of the bank murder, were innocent of murdering his wife. The bag full of gold coins he possesses, he says he took off the dead prospector. Jim returns to Rio Arriba and confesses to the padre about his moral collapse causing him to seek revenge and not justice, and is later hailed by the town as a hero for getting rid of the evil outlaws. He asks them only for their prays as he walks with Josefa and his child, finding salvation in her love.

It’s a no-nonsense downbeat Western with Peck in his usual fine form, but the film failed to maintain a tension as it became clear from early on these men were not the ones who killed his wife. The tacked on religious message seemed unnecessary, as it left an uneasy grimness hanging over a film that had such fine production values and potential to be a great one.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”